Herta Last Andretti Member to Get a Win
BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) _ Bryan Herta finally feels like part of the team. He became the fourth and final member of the Andretti Green Racing team to win in the IRL this season, capturing the Freestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Herta held off three drivers in a scramble to the finish, beating teammate Dan Wheldon by less than a car length for his first victory since 2003.
``The team gave me a dominant car, a better car than I’ve ever had on a super speedway,″ said Herta, who is from Michigan and lives in California. ``It was all going my way in the first half of the race. We were able to pull out a big lead.″
Then he was able to hang on, leading 159 of the 200 laps on the wide, 2-mile oval.
Herta averaged 167.197 mph. Wheldon, the series points leader, was second, followed by Tomas Scheckter, Tony Kanaan and Sam Hornish Jr.
Wheldon leads Andretti Green drivers with four wins in the season’s first 11 races. Teammates Kanaan, Dario Franchitti already had victories.
Now Herta has one, too.
``It was frustrating, in a way,″ Herta said. ``As much as I wanted to win, though, those guys kept me really up. They said, ’Bryan, you’ll get one soon, and it’ll be a big party when you do.‴
Herta had won poles at Phoenix and St. Petersburg before notching his third pole at Michigan. But his best finish of the year had been third at the Indianapolis 500.
``It was Herta’s day,″ Wheldon said. ``It’s very good to see him in Victory Lane.″
Wheldon increased his season series lead. He has 417 points, 78 ahead of Hornish with six races left.
Rookie Danica Patrick, who had performed well on large ovals all season, struggled Sunday. She finished 20th after blowing an engine on the 164th lap, quickly pulling off the track.
Patrick started from the eighth position, but immediately fell back in the pack because of handling problems. She reported to her pit crew that the track felt slippery, and she had dropped to 20th in the 23-car field about 25 laps in.
``I was struggling with the car all weekend,″ Patrick said. ``It just wasn’t consistent.″
Scheckter performed well early, leading briefly when Herta pitted on the 38th lap. But Scheckter was assessed a penalty for entering the pits too fast, and was ordered to drive through pit row again. That knocked him out of the top 15, but a fast car, combined with yellow flags, allowed him to move back into competition.
On the last few laps, Scheckter was in a crowd of cars sometimes running three wide chasing Herta.
``The end was pretty crazy,″ Scheckter said. ``Those Andretti guys were fighting hard with each other and that allowed me through.″
Average lap speeds hovered around 210 mph in the first half of the race. But a yellow flag on the 122nd lap, when Ed Carpenter had mechanical problems, started to reduce the average speeds.
The speeds were reduced more when Helio Castroneves’ car caught fire on the 139th lap, knocking him out of the race.
A four-car crash involved Townsend Bell, Jaques Lazier, Roger Yasukawa and Kosuke Matsuura with about 20 laps left. Bell spun entering the second turn and started the chain reaction. All four drivers were treated and released from the track’s infield medical center.